Ushering in 2016

By Christine Mason

compassion wall2If you read to the end of this blogpost, you will see my message of hope and light as we herald in 2016.  I promise.

Yesterday I blogged about the opportunity January presents for new beginnings. Today I opened the Washington Post to see that Sweden is overwhelmed with immigrants, that two former opponents are now promoting legislation to “research” gun violence in the U.S., and that soaring temperatures are responsible for devastating floods in the Midwest and catastrophes around the globe. Of course this news is balanced with the best ever sales on winter clothes that seem not to be in demand these days when the temperature in DC rises to 70 degrees on Christmas Day. A new beginning to the Saga of the World in 2016 might be welcomed by many.

There is a saying that where some see problems, others see opportunities. Today’s headlines, unfortunately, are not the exception to the news that is delivered into our homes each day. In the past few months we have learned that many countries in Europe are being challenged by the number of refugees, that the US is not sure about how we should respond, that the Taliban is regaining its foothold in Afghanistan, and that schools for girls are being bombed. Every day we find headlines related to ISIS, terrorism, and brutality. Whether it is headlines, hashtags, videoclips, or the latest broadcasts, the messages are similar and we are on the receiving end, absorbing them over and over again. Conflict, violence, evacuations, refugees, hatred, disregard for the environment, selfishness, greed, disparities, a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.  I can only conclude that there are plenty of opportunities. In fact, we might even say that the world is full of opportunity.

Solutions? How do we even begin to make a difference?  As educators, what is our contribution? What of the solutions others are proposing? Re: gun violence, the proposed “research” with its negotiated limitations appears to be a bureaucratic compromise that could likely amount to further delays, rather than solutions.  I can’t see how building walls will help this planet. I am not sure about how ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) will be implemented, in district after district, state after state. I gasp as I see glaciers sliding into bays, reports of CEO’s  with $612 million annual salaries, and one more shooting. What will make a difference? Will it be the negotiated changes to emission standards to take place 50 years from now? Perhaps another summit and photo-op?

Age-old Truths. When I pause to reflect on solutions, particularly during my meditations, I hear echoes of age old truths, truths that begin with consciousness and caring. pic2

  • Youth need and deserve caring educators, good schools, and meaningful discussions with adults and peers. The experiences students have in schools from prek-12, year after year, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, are critical.  Educators can help pave the way to a better tomorrow through our actions multiplied in classroom after classroom, school after school, in district after district.
  • Ultimately, when our hearts are full of peace and goodwill, good will triumph over evil; when we enter classrooms with a spirit of love, that love and good will can be contagious. However, this is a love accompanied by strength and courage — not just a warm, fuzzy love, but a love that speaks of justice, dignity for all, and our dreams for humanity.
  • We magnify our impact when a growing number of teachers and schools create our own corners of the world that are full of peace, calmness, hope, optimism, and leadership. When we listen with compassion and provide a voice of reason and confidence in our collective capability, others are strengthened.
  • And finally, we have tremendous knowledge and an ever-expanding capacity to learn, invent and find solutions.

My beliefs are supported not only by age-old wisdom, but also by research on the impact of visioning, calmness, mindfulness, caring, technology, creativity and 21st century learning.  Whether it be caring for self, others, or the Earth, caring counts.

So as we usher in 2016, my wishes for all are that you continue to care, uplift, learn, create, support, and shine. In 2016, may your light reach to the far corners of this world.

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